Why I think ZIRX, the new valet service, is a win-win

For some reason I’m only hearing about ZIRX now, even though it was launched in San Francisco last September. I think it’s a great idea. Why?

Screenshot from my favorite parking app, Best Parking, showing prices in different San Francisco lots for 3 hours.

Screenshot from my favorite parking app, Best Parking, showing prices in different San Francisco lots for 3 hours.

  1. It’s solving a real pain point: anyone who has wandered the streets of a city looking for a curbside space (when there are no lots nearby) or parked at garages too far from where they wanted to be or too expensive because they had no other choice, will appreciate this service.
  2. The pricing is a bargain: $15 for parking with no time limit? A quick check of parking garages in Downtown San Francisco this evening shows a range from a low of $6 to a high of $45 for three hours. See the screenshot on the right. $15 is a very good price point.
  3. The app promises no waiting at the exchange point: “Tell us where you’re headed in our app, then drive to your destination. We’ll send over an Agent to be there when you arrive.” That’s exactly the way it should work as there are some places where stopping for a period of time longer than a minute or two is impossible and an immediate exchange is easier and safer.
  4. ZIRX is not hurting anyone. I say this because one of the arguments against Uber is that it is hurting taxi drivers (never mind that their service was inefficient) and the drivers, as contract employees, don’t have the security and benefits that they would get in a traditional job. ZIRX’s valets get the same advantage of flexibility as Uber’s drivers but they don’t have to maintain a car. ZIRX also says that they provide insurance, unlike Uber’s put-all-responsibility-on-the-driver approach.
  5. Parking can be insane in San Francisco during special events. At this year’s baseball playoffs, (yes, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series again) parking lots near AT&T Park were charging up to $140 to park for a game. All this time there were empty lots probably no more than a 10 minute drive away. This is the reason that I predict surge pricing in ZIRX’s future: event parking, where many people need to arrive and leave at the same time will require many valets working at the same time in the same area.
  6. The car wash feature is a nice add-on. I wonder if in the future ZIRX will add more maintenance services like oil changes, tire rotation, or other periodic services.

ZIRX’s success, though, depends a lot on how well they do the operations behind the technology: will the valet be at the meeting point on time? Will the cars return unscathed? Will valets deliver the car back in a timely manner? In any case, can’t wait to try them out.

Note: as much as I wanted to try the app out before writing this post it kept misbehaving, thinking there wasn’t a connection. Anyway, I’m outside the service zone so I’ll save my initial trial for next time I’m in the city.

 

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